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Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidaete Rob Sarvis

Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis

This week, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis will be making a multitude of campaign stops in the central Shenandoah Valley.  These events mark his first trip to the area since securing the party’s nomination back at the Waynesboro convention in April.

First, on Wednesday, August 14th, Sarvis will give a speech on the steps of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County courthouse beginning at 5:30 PM.

From there, he will travel to a meet-and-greet at the home of a local supporter who lives just west of the city.

Then, on the following day, he will converse with voters at Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton from 4 PM to 5 PM.  Wrights’, for those who don’t know, is a 1950s style burger and milkshakes diner that has been in operation since 1952 and is located at 346 Greenville Avenue.

Afterward, starting at 6:30 PM, Robert will address the Staunton Tea Party.  These days, the Staunton Tea Party holds their monthly gatherings at the VFW on 212 Frontier Drive.

Lastly, on Friday, Robert Sarvis will tour the Rockingham County Fair for a good portion of the day.  This year, the Libertarian Party has a booth alongside the Republican and Democratic Parties.

As the 2013 election season begins to kick into high gear, it should be interesting to see how many times the various statewide candidates visit the Valley.  Only a few weeks ago, E. W. Jackson held a particularly successful fundraiser on the campus of James Madison University.  With both Rockingham and Augusta Counties being typically among the most Republican (if not the most Republican) localities in the state coupled with cities like Harrisonburg and Staunton, which have been trending Democratic in recent years, the area provides a variety of political opinions and perspectives.  And, given that none of the statewide candidates have opened up a considerable lead in the polls thus far coupled with the relatively untested variable of the Libertarian Party and Robert Sarvis, politics in this part of the state might be a bit more entertaining than it has been in previous cycles.

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On Tuesday night, like many Americans, I intently watched a hotly contested political debate.  However, unlike most of the folks, the debate I sat in the audience of didn’t feature presidential hopefuls, but rather the three candidates for Sheriff of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County.  As opposed to the Tea Party forum that was held previously, this event last night was a full-fledged, no holds barred debate.  And let me tell you that the attacks came fast and furious as the night went on.

I’ll start by mentioning the particulars of the debate that I thought went well.

First, the fact that all three candidates showed up was important.  This point might seem like a minor issue, but a debate is a time-honored tradition in American politics that should not be ignored (cough hint to George Allen cough). I congratulate C. M. Hess, Bryan Hutcheson, and Kevin Shifflett for having the courage to stand before the voters (or employers as Mr. Shifflett prefers to call them) and articulate their reasoning for seeking the office of sheriff.

Second, I thought the debate was well run.  Although the periodic announcement of time remaining was a distraction, the time keeping was handled fairly, giving each candidate equal time.  I appreciated that hosts allowed for considerable audience participation (although I’ll delve into a specific negative on this issue shortly.)

Third, in general the audience and candidates were respectful of each other.  There were no wild outbursts or interruptions and although there were differences in levels of applause, clapping greeted each answer.

However, the greatest negative, in my mind, had to revolve around the audience questions.

First, was there any oversight or prescreening on these questions?  Some folks tended to ramble, veer off topic, or jam several questions into one.

Second, it seemed to me that some members of the audience sought to politically assassinate candidates.  Now I understand that most of the people asking questions did so in order to promote the candidate of their choice or to point out the weaknesses of the other candidates, but some of the attacks seemed to me to be over the top, especially the ones directed against Mr. Hess.

As a result of recent news, most citizens are aware of the drinking and driving incident that took place last year involving our current sheriff, Don Farley.  Do I believe that the public needs to be better informed about this issue?  Yes.  If there is proof of misconduct should Sheriff Farley be held accountable?  Of course.  Does the entire Sheriff’s office bear some responsibility for this affair?  Sure.  Well, should we bludgeon Mr. Hess repeatedly over the head with this issue and treat him as if he were drinking and driving himself?  I don’t think so.

I’d compare the event to a three-way boxing match.  Imagine if you will, during the fight several spectators jumping into the ring to pummel one or more of the athletes.  Would you consider such a move fair?  Now, if one of the candidates wished to spend his time tearing into another candidate that is one thing.  I just found the repeated attacks from the audience against all the candidates, but especially against Mr. Hess given their ferocity, quite distasteful.

I think there is something to like in all three of the choices, but each of the candidates seems to have a particular strength.  C.M. Hess gets a leg up with on the issue of experience given his lengthy service with the department.  Although none have run for office prior, Bryan Hutcheson seems to be the most articulate, which can create confidence and clarity among the force and the citizenry.  Given his role in the discipline of the armed forces, one can argue that Kevin Shifflett stands a better chance to reform some of the negative aspects of the office.

If you are wondering who I thought won this debate, given all aspects, I believe that Mr. Hutcheson emerged the winner (or the least unscathed depending on your perspective).  One of his strongest moments emerged when both Mr. Hess and Mr. Shifflett independently stated that he would be supporting Mr. Hutcheson assuming he were not a candidate himself.

Will this trend continue in future debates?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, I encourage you to visit the websites of Hess, Hutcheson, and Shifflett as well as their Facebook pages.  The citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County deserve a great sheriff.  Let’s make sure we pick the best one.

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Back during the 2007-08 Republican Presidential Campaign, the phenomenon of the Meetup group was a bit of a peculiar oddity associated heavily with the Ron Paul movement.  Across the country, ordinary (and often otherwise apolitical) folks gathered together in their own communities.  In many cases, they did not have much experience with traditional campaigning, but came together to voice their support for the good doctor from Texas.

Here in my hometown of Harrisonburg, there were a group of us who advanced his candidacy in a multitude of ways; we made signs, we wrote letters, we discussed philosophy.  Once I took an official position with the campaign and relocated down to South Carolina, like with Virginia, I discovered a whole host of Meetup groups in that state.  They were all over the place: Greenville, Charleston, and Rock Hill…just to name a few.

Regardless of your feelings regarding Dr. Paul, you really should admire the remarkable way his candidacy attracted support.  It wasn’t based so much on some sort of cult of personality, but rather to a steadfast commitment to the Constitution and the principles of limited government.

Well, I’m pleased to say that the Ron Paul Meetup groups are springing forth once more.  Shenandoah County is the first area in the Shenandoah Valley to both reform their group and hold meetings in this new election season.  Although it appears that the Charlottesville group has reactivated their organization from 2007 as well, as far as I can tell, they have not held a general meeting in this cycle yet.

But I’m here to offer a bit of good news to my fellow lovers of liberty and Ron Paul supporters in and around my own community.  Although it is not an official Meetup group, there is a Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Facebook group devoted to Rep. Paul.  That’s right!  In fact, they will be holding the first gathering later today (July 31st).

So here at the details:

Location – Westover Park in Harrisonburg

Dogwood Drive and West Market Street

At the open pavilion

Time – starting at 6 PM!

Although I have a few important things to do today, I’m certainly planning to join my fellow Ron Paul supporters.   If you like Ron Paul, or if you simply support the idea of liberty, I encourage you to come to the meeting.

Now, even if you live in another part of the state or country, you should find a group near you.  If one doesn’t exist yet, go on Meetup.com and create it.  Not only will you get the chance to meet like-minded individuals, but also, by being in a group you’ll be able to more effectively promote your ideology.

After all, as Ron Paul himself says, “freedom is popular!”

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We are ten days removed from the GOP primary for Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff.  However, I wanted to offer a few more observations regarding the race before it is shelved to memory.

If you will recall from my last post, both the local paper and TV news station reported differing vote totals.  The Daily News Record stated that Hutcheson won by about 500 votes (2,963-2,414), while WHSV had a margin of about 1,500 (3,963-2,414).  Given my expectations regarding the race, I assumed that the DNR’s statement was closer to the mark.  However, according to the July 14th issue of the DNR, the Rockingham County Republican Party released that Hutcheson triumphed by about 1,100 votes (3,224-2,153).   Breaking the total down further, Hutcheson lost Harrisonburg 493 to 670, but won the county 2,731 to 1,483.

What makes this election particularly remarkable is Hutcheson’s victory (not to mention his margin of victory).  If you will recall, back on June 26th I wrote, “I’ll wager that once next month’s dust settles that Boshart will be the GOP nominee”.  But why did I reach such a conclusion?

Let’s consider their perceived efforts.  For many months leading up to the primary, I saw Boshart at just about every Republican function while Hutcheson was more or less absent.  Sure, Hutcheson was the featured speaker at one of the First Friday functions (which unfortunately I missed), but why didn’t he do a better job reaching out to the Republican activists?  After all, active Republicans are far more likely to vote in Republican primaries than the average voter.  To compare politics to an orchard, if you have a limited amount of time, shouldn’t you harvest the low hanging fruit first before using a ladder to reach the upper branches?

What about direct voter contact?  Although I personally received nothing from either campaign, I hear that Boshart was far more prolific when it came to direct mail.

Third were the endorsements.  It seemed that just about every elected Republican official in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were on the Boshart bandwagon.  State Senator Mark Obenshain, Delegate Tony Wilt, Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood…the list goes on.

So, why did Hutcheson win?  Well, as far as I can tell, there were three major reasons.

First, he expanded the base.  When I went to vote, I did not recognize a majority of the folks there.  I’d bet that many of the people who voted either never attended an official Republican function or only did so sporadically.  Although Rockingham County is among the most Republican counties in the state, I assure you that there are not 4,000 regularly active Republicans within the borders.  It seems that Hutcheson not only appealed to the more casual Republican voter, but also convinced them to come out to the polls.

How about the Hutcheson endorsements?  As mentioned, the Republican leadership favored Boshart, but Hutcheson seemed to have an edge when it came to law enforcement.  Shortly before the election, Hutcheson put an advertisement in the paper that listed a multitude of retired law enforcement officers who supported him for Sheriff.  I thought the ad was exceedingly effective.  After all, wouldn’t law enforcement personal know the demands and required qualifications for Sheriff far better than the average citizen?

Last, we have to ask; can too many endorsements be a bad thing?  Again, it seemed that every elected Republican supported Boshart.  As a result, on more than on occasion I heard the term “good old boys network” to characterize the situation.  If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, according to Wikipedia, it “describes a system of social networking/cronyism perceived to exist among communities and social strata…Some negative effects of the good ol’ boy network are its exclusion of others, leading to leaders of a community possibly limiting business transactions to other elites, or to friends or acquaintances from within the network, to give friends better deals, and generally to reinforce traditional power structures over any other elements in the society.”  Thus, among some people, the fear was that Boshart was not the most qualified candidate, but rather the one selected in advance by the party machinery.

Here we are, Hess versus Hutcheson.  Although I originally expected Hess to emerge victorious, that was before Hutcheson’s strong showing.  Before I make another incorrect prediction, I’ll have to wait and see what the next few months bring.

So, if you voted in the primary, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.  Did you vote for Hutcheson or Boshart?  More importantly, why did you vote the way you did?  What influenced your decision to vote for (or against) a certain candidate?  Is it one of the reasons that I listed above, or something totally different?  Share with us.

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I’ve just received word that Bryan Hutcheson has won the Republican primary for Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Congratulations to him for his victory.

I suppose that the high turnout that I witnessed played a heavy role in his success.  Although we are waiting for the official vote tally with the State Board of Elections, according to WHSV’s website Hutcheson won 3,963 to Boshart’s 2,414.

Once additional details become available, I’ll add more numbers and thoughts.

Update:  Daily News Record lists vote totals as 2,963 to 2,414.

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The Scene Outside Keister (about 4:10 PM)

Well, I have return from voting in the Republican primary for Sheriff.  I figured that it would be a fairly straightforward affair:  Grab the closest parking spot, get in the line for my precinct, vote, and then go home.  As expected, the process was not complex, however, there were far more people voting than I expected.

Now, I know that there is only one voting place for the city of Harrisonburg even though we typically have five and that the polling place is only open from 4 PM to 8 PM, but, with the exception of presidential years, most times you get in and out in about a half an hour or less.  Instead, I found that the closest parking lot was completely full.  Once inside, I had to wait in a lengthy line to be broken into our normal precincts.  My line (Keister) was far and away the busiest.

Outside the polling place, I noticed that at least two of the cars in the parking lot sported stickers for C.M. Hess (the Independent candidate for Sheriff).  At first, I was surprised to see them, but I guess I shouldn’t be.  After all, I vote in Democratic primaries regularly even though I don’t vote Democratic in the general election.  That got me thinking.  I wonder if most Hess people support one of the Republican candidates over the other.  Hmm…

Anyway, given that the overall turnout will likely exceed my expectations, it should be interesting to discover the results.  Will Boshart, who has the backing of pretty much every elected Republican in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, emerge victorious as I predicted?  Or will Hutcheson, who draws primarily from current and retired law enforcement officers, pull out a win?  I guess we’ll find out after 8 PM tonight.

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Today, voters across Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Virginia will have the opportunity to select a Republican candidate for sheriff.  The choice is between Kurt Boshart and Bryan Hutcheson.  The winner of this contest will go on to face Independent candidate C.M. Hess in the general election.

When speaking with various voters in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, I’ve been stumped by one question.  Let me back up for a second.  From reading this blog, you’ll quickly discover that I try to know just about everything I can about politics.  Therefore, when I don’t have the answer to an inquiry, I research until I find it.  However, I cannot figure out why the voters select the sheriff.

Isn’t the sheriff primarily responsible as the chief law enforcement agent in the city or county?  If that assumption is true, wouldn’t the best sheriff be the person who most efficiently and effectively promotes the laws of a particular locality?  Shouldn’t experience be more important than popularity?  Why, therefore, is the sheriff position subjected to the political process?

Although I know some states have popularly elected judges, I find the idea distasteful.  The creation of the law is a highly partisan process, but shouldn’t the application of the law be uniform?  Isn’t one of the primary purposes of both judges and sheriffs to maintain the law?  If a Republican, Democrat, or Independent chose not to uphold the law of the land, we ought to be outraged.  Need I remind you that legislators alone have the ability to craft laws and not judicial figures?

Now, maybe I just don’t really understand the position of sheriff all that well.  Does he (or she) have some sort of political role to play too?  Is that the reason why parties nominate candidates and voters go to the polls to pick their sheriff?

I could go on here, but I’m hoping a reader can offer comments that will enlighten both my fellow citizens and myself regarding this matter.  Even if you don’t have any firm knowledge, educated guesses are always welcome.

Don’t take me for a fool for asking, but why do we elect a sheriff?

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Virginia is gearing up for another election year.  Then again, every year is an election year in this state.  Like New Jersey, Virginia is a bit of an oddity in that we elect our representatives in state government in the odd numbered years.  Although this method does allow our state government to be partially detached from fluctuating national trends, it also means that we elect some legislator or another every November.

Here in the central Shenandoah Valley, office seekers to the House of Delegates, State Senate, and the various constitutional offices are in the early stages of winning allies and expanding their coffers.  We have five House members up for re-election as well as two State Senators.  Right now the field is pretty stable.  None of the present members (all Republicans) have any primary challengers and only one of them, Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton, currently has a Democratic opponent for the fall.  I’m working on an in-depth analysis of the 20th district contest for an upcoming post.

No doubt the biggest race in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County for 2011 has to be sheriff.  Currently, there are three people seeking the post.  Kurt Boshart and Bryan Hutcheson are vying for the Republican nomination that will be decided on July 12th.  The winner of this contest will face independent candidate C.M. Hess on the November ballot.

But what are my predictions regarding these two races?  Well, for the House of Delegates, Laura Kleiner is pretty green politically (her experience only reaches back to 2009 according to her website) and the newly drawn 20th district is still conservative.  Also, the more I listen to Delegate Bell, the more I like him.  I have to assume that other conservative activists in the Valley are reacting likewise.  Given these factors, I expect Dickie Bell will retain the seat.

As for the sheriff’s race, I’ll wager that once next month’s dust settles that Boshart will be the GOP nominee.  He seems to have a greater support among the Republican faithful and, as far as I can tell, has done a better job courting their support.  However, if the general election were held today, I believe Mr. Hess will prove victorious.  First of all, he is winning the sign war.  Drive around the city and especially the county and you’ll likely see a much greater number of his signs up at local businesses and the yards of supporters than either Hutcheson or Boshart.  Second, partisan leaning seem to have little influence over this race.  Although the area is heavily conservative, voters don’t necessarily favor the Republican nominee over an Independent when it comes to sheriff.  For example, in the last contested race in Harrisonburg in 2003, the Independent beat the Republican by a hefty 18.5%.

When considering either the sheriff or the delegate race, one should always remember that a lot can happen between now and Election Day.  After all, it is only late June now.  As 2006 and 2009 showed, one grievous slip of the tongue or a perceived ethical lapse by a candidate can easily scuttle months or years of effort.  Barring any major setback, the strength or weakness of a campaign effort will have a far greater impact than anything else…except maybe the lines of the district in question.

As with any political campaign, it should be interesting to watch.

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Continuing our series on redistricting, I’d like to focus on the likely new boundaries for the lower house of the  Virginia General Assembly, the House of Delegates.  In today’s segment, we will be looking at my home past and present, the city of Harrisonburg and the surrounding county of Rockingham.

The city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County in western Virginia

The first question we ought to ask is, how are the House of Delegates districts currently drawn?  Well, as of the last Census, they looked as follows:

As you can see, the 26th district (represented by Del. Tony Wilt of Broadway which is a town in Rockingham) encompasses the city and the northern half of the county.  The rest is split between the 20th (represented by Del. Dickie Bell of Staunton city), the 25th (represented by Del. Steve Landes of Weyers Cave, a town in Augusta County), and the 15th (represented by Del. Todd Gilbert of Mt. Jackson, a town in Shenandoah County).

Here’s a modest redistricting proposal.   Because Harrisonburg has a greater population density than the surrounding county, both Harrisonburg and Rockingham County could be represented by two delegates assuming one collected the pieces from the 20th, 25th, and 15th.  Although I believe that all four delegates have done a good job representing our shared Valley values, wouldn’t it make more sense to shave that number to two (or three depending on how the lines break)?  Doesn’t it seem logical to have Rockingham County voters represented by, oh I don’t know, a citizen from Rockingham County?  Instead we have only one Rockingham resident Delegate, as listed above, the rest are from Staunton, Augusta, and Shenandoah.  Nevertheless, even if they aren’t all from Rockingham or Harrisonburg, at least they are all from the Shenandoah Valley.

So what fate will redistricting have on Rockingham County?  The most likely outcome, offered by Delegate Chris Jones of Suffolk and passed by the Virginia Senate looks like this:

Del. Jones' Plan

Disappointingly, this map still quarters Rockingham County between four seats.  Like before, the 26th comprises the bulk while the remainder is divvied up between the 15th, the 25th, and a surprising newcomer, the 58th.  As you might notice, the 25th takes an ugly jut through southwest Rockingham County as it swallows up territory formerly in the 20th.  Traveling south and east we see that both the 20th and 25th districts are both heavily gerrymandered under this plan.

Regarding the 25th, does anyone else see a problem with a house district that goes from the West Virginia border to the outskirts of the city of Charlottesville around 50 miles away?  Can you honestly tell me that the citizens of Rockingham have much in common with those living in the suburbs of Charlottesville?  Having personally lived in both localities, I can assure you that they are as similar as night and day.

And what of this 58th district?  That seat is currently held by Delegate Rob Bell of Charlottesville.  Again, I have no complaints against this Del. Bell, but if Rockingham residents can’t be represented by their neighbors shouldn’t they at least be represented by folks in the culturally connected Valley?  Guess what citizens of Rockingham!  In order to visit the office of your new delegate, you’ll have to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains, travel through Greene County and then into Albemarle County.  For some of you, that likely means a forty-five minute drive.  Good luck with that.

All of this discussion begs the question, why is Rockingham split as it is?  Well, both Rockingham County and Augusta County to the south are some of the two most reliably Republican voting areas of the state.  Think back to 2008 when Jim Gilmore was absolutely destroyed in the race for U.S. Senate.  What were two of the measly six localities he won?  Rockingham and Augusta.

2008 Virginia Senate Race

So why has Rockingham County swapped one Delegate Bell (Dickie) for another (Rob)?  The answer may be seniority.  After all, any Republican politician would love to have some rich conservative Rockingham soil in his or her district.  Given that Del. Bell of Charlottesville has been in office for eight more years than Del. Bell of Staunton, I’m guessing padding his district is of greater importance to Del. Jones and whoever else had a hand in drawing this map.  All the while, the voters of Rockingham are mere pawns in this political horse swap.

If for no other reason than for the sake of my friends and family who are spread around Rockingham County, I hope this plan fails.  Sure, it helps conservative Republicans, which is desirable for those who share my ideology, but it does so at the unacceptable expense of undermining our political process.  Rockingham County is more than just a wheel of cheese to be sliced up as is politically convenient.

Anyway, the take home point is this:  For gerrymandering pure and simple this plan ought to be rejected by the General Assembly, the Governor, and the courts.

Something is rotten in Rockingham.  I can’t be the only person who notices this truth!

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